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From Obese Junk Food Addict to Whole-Food, Plant-Based Queen

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From Obese Junk Food Addict to Whole-Food, Plant-Based Queen

The vegan culinary instructor Chef AJ successfully transitioned from being an obese, vegan, junk food addict to a healthy whole-food, plant-based cooking teacher

Chef AJ with a vegan pie
Chef AJ with a vegan pie


Los Angeles, December 19th, 2023 — Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. In desperation, many are now turning to weight loss drugs that can have severe negative side effects. The obvious alternative solution is switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet. But, that solution looks, to many, like an impossible mountain to climb. What? No more ice cream, cheeseburgers, pizza or chocolate cake? How can I live without them?

Chef AJ Reveals Her Weight Loss Secret

One of the key tenets of recovery programs is sharing. A person in recovery from an addiction shares their experience with someone else who is suffering from the same problem. The idea is for nobody to feel alone or judged and everyone to learn how someone else overcame similar cravings.  Chef AJ has been providing that roadmap to food sobriety for years.  Once obese and desperate, she made a dramatic shift and got her life back. She lost 70 pounds by switching from a vegan, junk food diet to a vegan whole-food, plant-based diet. Her mantra? You will lose weight if you just eat vegetables and fruits without adding oil, sugar and salt.

Even as UnchainedTV’s Jane Velez-Mitchell interviewed Chef AJ, there was breaking news on the very topic they were discussing: America’s obesity crisis. A CNN headline blared, “Poison centers see nearly 1,500% increase in calls related to injected weight-loss drugs as people accidentally overdose.”  Chef AJ bemoaned that tragic development as an entirely unnecessary added complication. Weight loss, she says, can be achieved without pills or injections. Check out the whole interview below.

Being Vegan Is Not Enough

Chef AJ books
Chef AJ books

Chef AJ has now become one of America’s leading voices on weight management and oil-free, sugar-free, salt-free cooking. She is featured in the award-winning UnchainedTV series New Day New Chef and has her own channel on the streaming network where she makes potato pizza and several decadent, date-laden desserts. She also hosts the television series Healthy Living with CHEF AJ on Foody TV. A chef, culinary instructor, and professional speaker, she is the author of the popular book “Unprocessed: How to Achieve Vibrant Health and Your Ideal Weight,” which chronicles her journey from an obese, junk-food vegan faced with a diagnosis of pre-cancerous polyps, to someone who mastered recipes that nourish and heal the body. Her latest bestselling book is “The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss: A Revolutionary Approach to Conquer Cravings, Overcome Food Addiction.” It has received glowing endorsements from many luminaries in the plant-based movement.

Chef AJ was also the Executive Pastry Chef at Santé Restaurant in Los Angeles where she was famous for her sugar, oil, salt, and gluten-free desserts which use “…the fruit, the whole fruit, and nothing but the whole fruit.” But, she adds, when she initially became vegan, it wasn’t about food at all. It was about saving animals.

“I first changed my diet when I was 17. First, to just a vegan diet, for totally ethical reasons. I was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania studying to be a veterinarian. I joke that I became a vegetarian because they were doing animal research and I cut the head off, unfortunately, of one salamander, and I’m like, ‘I’m never doing this again.’”

Chef AJ lost 70 pounds on a whole-food, plant-based diet.
Chef AJ before and after photos.

Seduced by the lure of vegan junk food products, she fell into the habit of eating foods packed with sugar, salt and fat.  Consequently, she became overweight. As she explains:

“I have been vegan for 47 years, and for at least 35 of them, I was overweight, probably obese, depending on whose chart you’re looking at.  I struggled, like so many other people, with what’s called ‘the pleasure trap.’ Everywhere we go, processed food, whether it’s vegan or not, it’s socially acceptable, it’s easily affordable, it’s readily available, it’s cheap, and it’s kind of delicious.”

“I’ve always recommended to people struggling to lose weight, or have sweet cravings or food addiction leanings, to start their day in a savory way, with vegetables.”— Chef AJ, culinary instructor

Food Addiction Is a Thing

Chef AJ with delicious vegan desserts
Chef AJ with delicious vegan desserts

When Chef AJ recognized that her problem was a problem of food addiction, she started to find a way around it. As she puts it:

“I didn’t understand food addiction, I didn’t even know it was a thing until probably 10 or 12 years ago, and I realized that I was behaving with food the way that people that have a drug addiction or alcohol addiction were behaving with alcohol.”

It was a health scare at the age of 43, when she developed precancerous polyps in her sigmoid colon, that made her stop using refined sugar and acknowledge her addiction:

“When I went to the Optimum Health Institute on July 6th, 2003, which was the last day I knowingly had processed sugar, I couldn’t tell you how bad I felt when I quit.  That’s kind of how you know it’s an addiction. If you can’t go without it one meal, let alone one day, you probably have something that looks a little bit like an addictive process going on.”

The final step toward a fully healthy, whole-food, plant-based diet happened when she broke her knee. She explains:

“I was too fat to even use a walker or crutches, and I had to be in a wheelchair. It was embarrassing. It was humiliating. I couldn’t take care of my basic needs of going to the bathroom. And I was 50 years old. My husband was basically doing that stuff, and it was like, ‘As soon as I get out of this wheelchair, I’m doing something.’”

“People see an overnight success like it happened overnight. It didn’t. It took 52 years for me to be an overnight success in weight loss, but I did things in increments.”— Chef AJ, culinary instructor

Lost 70 Pounds Eating Potatoes

Chef AJ with one of her vegan meals
Chef AJ with one of her vegan meals

Interestingly, Chef AJ not only managed to reduce her weight spectacularly, but she did it by eating lots of potatoes, which are both versatile and affordable. As she explains:

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“They’re about 365 calories per pound. You can’t gain weight eating potatoes. It’s what people are putting on the potatoes, butter, sour cream, bacon, cheese, or frying them in oil, which is 4,000 calories per pound. It really is probably the biggest weight loss secret, the easiest food to help facilitate weight loss, because it’s also so satiating.”

Chef AJ also has good advice about how to overcome the cravings for sweet foods:

“One way to start taking away sweet cravings is to stop eating so many sweets. But, I feel that the foods that are best for sweet cravings are greens, because they have a compound in them… that somehow blocks fat absorption, and they just stop the cravings for sweets”

The second thing people can do is to replace sugar with fruit, as Chef AJ explains:

“If you want to also satisfy your sweet tooth without sugar — there’s nothing wrong with having a sweet tooth— you want to satisfy it with whole natural fruit.”

“If you’re struggling with junk food, or sugar, you really can’t have it in your house… I’ve been saying for years, if it’s in your house, it’s in your mouth.”— Chef AJ, culinary instructor

UnchainedTV’s Chef AJ channel focuses on cakes and tarts that are very sweet but with that sweetness provided by dates. Watch below and learn how to whip up a guilt-free, sugar-free dessert bonanza.


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